Milwaukee’s Eat Local Challenge
Fondy Food Center,
Outpost Natural Foods, Slow Food Wisconsin Southeast, the Urban Ecology Center
and Westown Association have joined forces to organize the Eat Local Challenge,
which encourages Milwaukee-area residents to eat locally for the first two
weeks of the month, Sept. 1-14.
The first question at
hand: What is local? The answer: There isn’t a standard definition for local.
Joan Dye Gussow, a nutritionist and 81-year-old matriarch of the eat-locally,
think-globally food movement defines local in her 2001 memoir, This Organic Life, as “within a day's
leisurely drive of our homes.” Others, such as Plenty authors Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, committed to a full
year of eating only foods grown within 100 miles of their residence. Still
others get their food from within 100 feet of their doorstep. What’s great about
Milwaukee’s Eat Local Challenge is that it allows a participant to define every
aspect of his or her challenge.
“The Eat Local Challenge
is just to get people to be more conscious about what they’re eating and where
it’s coming from,” explains Jamie Ferschinger,
community program coordinator for the Urban Ecology Center. “It’s really
easy to go into a grocery store, pick something off the shelf and just not
think about everything that happened prior to that. Is it coming from
Argentina? Is it coming from New York? Or is it coming from somebody who is in
the same community as we are? Each one of those choices has a suite of
circumstances that comes with it. I think it’s really important right now to
start thinking about the re-localization of our food system.”
locavores) choose to eat locally for a number of reasons, but four main points
are driving the movement: concern about the planet; concern about personal
health; the importance of investing in local economies; and the taste of fresh
Food often travels a
great distance from farm to table. Between rising fuel costs and the
contribution that transportation is making to global climate change, there is a
growing number of people who no longer find eating cherries or tomatoes year-round
to be worth the environmental disadvantages. Instead, locavores adjust their
menus to what is in-season and purchase whatever’s available at local farmers’
Many Americans are
currently learning painful lessons about food safety. The faceless producers on
a distant factory farm lack the transparency that can be found by simply
building a relationship—and trust—with local farmers and stores. Wondering if
synthetic chemicals are used on that produce, or if those eggs are free-range?
Ask the producer next time you see her at the farmers’ market, or visit your
CSA (community-supported agriculture) farm.
Studies have shown that
when we buy from local producers rather than nationally owned businesses,
significantly more of that money is used to make purchases from other local
businesses and farms, maintaining or strengthening the economic base of that
locale. It’s really quite simple: We keep a farmer in business, and the farmer
keeps us fed. The ease and sustainability of that basic exchange often makes
more sense than gambling on an unknown agricultural corporation a thousand
“I think once people try
local, especially produce, they’ll appreciate that flavor and taste,” says Lisa Kingery, M.S., R.D., food and nutrition
program director at Fondy Food Center. “That alone will be enough to
motivate them.” That Red Delicious apple grown by a local farmer and never
refrigerated will retain more of its delectable flavor than one shipped in a
frigid cargo hold from China. Plus, local farmers often cultivate produce and
livestock that are bred for flavor and suitability to our region, rather than
for uniformity and ability to travel.
Milwaukee’s Eat Local
Challenge features various activities and resources throughout the first two
weeks of September, including a kickoff celebration at the Westown Farmer’s
Market, a Friends of Real Food dinner, an Eat Local book club through Boswell
Book Co., and a local food festival at the Fondy Farmers Market.
For more information, visit www.eatlocalmilwaukee.org.